M. Saunders: I'm definitely getting close

M. Saunders: I'm definitely getting close

HOUSTON -- Mariners outfielder Michael Saunders played catch for a second straight day Tuesday and continued taking batting practice as he worked to return from a sprained shoulder that has him on the disabled list until at least Friday.

Saunders' situation takes on a little more urgency with Franklin Gutierrez placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday, leaving the Mariners with only veteran Endy Chavez as an experienced center fielder.

"It's feeling better," Saunders said prior to Tuesday's game with the Astros. "Yesterday I threw 60 feet. I went a little further today and was able to put a little more on it. There's still a feeling of a little discomfort, but it's encouraging that I'm able to get out there and do it. That's the important thing."

Saunders said his batting practices have also improved. While he is still keeping two hands on the bat all the way through his swing to lessen the strain on his shoulder, he is starting to see improvement.

"I saw some carry on the ball, and it was coming off my bat a little better; so that was very encouraging," he said. "I'm still finishing with two hands, but the swing actually feels pretty good. I know as the days go on, it'll get more flexible. It might be one of those things where in a game your competitive nature takes over and you take a hard cut and let go of the bat with your top hand and finish one-handed. But for now in BP, I'll continue to finish with two hands and get my confidence back up that way."

Manager Eric Wedge said Saunders was improving daily and that the team would monitor Saunders' progress carefully before making a decision on when to activate him and whether he would need a short Minor League rehab stint.

"We'll address that when the time comes," Saunders said. "For now, I'm just concentrating on trying to get to that point. I feel like it's around the corner. I'm definitely getting close. It depends on the situation. If that's what is best for me and the team, I'll go down and do it. If I can get back in right away, I'll do that, too."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.